Merry Hill, tricky lock gates and crazy numbers

On Monday October 6th we continued our "Back of the Map" cruise by going up the Stourbridge Sixteen and the Delph "Nine". The weather in the morning was dreadful - wind and rain. As we got to to the second lock of the sixteen and began to open the top paddles, Maggie called from the boat to let me know that both of the bottom gates had swung wide open. With more crew we could have held the gates closed whilst the paddles were raised but there was just me on the bank. We tried stage one of our usual method to keep badly balanced gates shut - running Albert back and using some prop wash. This failed so I resorted to stage two - cracking open a top paddle. This also failed and it was at this point a man called from the upper floor of a neighbouring house "open both paddles full!" I didn't particularly like this idea but on the principle that there was little choice I opened both paddles fully and then rushed back to the bottom of the lock to shut the gates. The gates held tight and the water rose.

It was then that I remembered what I had read the night before in the relevant Pearson's Guide. Our copy is at least 10 years old, and I am sure that is was written in the 1990s, but Mike Pearson describes their journey up the flight and finding that the bottom gates of lock 15 would not close! Are they still unbalanced after all these years!

The Red Cone at Stourbridge

By the time we got "into the thick" of the flight the weather had eased a little and we decided to stop for coffee and respite and the Glass Museum site. We moored overnight outside the museum in the 1990s with our first boat Bertie. That time it was summer and we were going down the flight.

A double lock on the Stourbridge Flight 
(not staircase)

Stourbridge Locks, Black Shed and Red Cone

By the time we reached the Delph the rain had stopped and the weather was tolerable. I had had a discussion with a shopkeeper at the Red Cone who asked if we were going up the "nine" at the Delph. I pointed out that there were actually on eight locks at the Delph but that paradoxically they continued to be called the nine by boaters long after they had been modernised and one lock removed. It was therefore with some amusement that I noticed that the pub at the bottom of "the thick" which had for many years had been called "The Nine Locks" had also been modernised and renamed "The Tenth Lock". This is a bit of a conundrum given that there are only eight in the flight! I presume that following the fashion of naming golf clubhouses "the nineteen hole" the brewery had decided that it would name the pub as the extra lock, not checking that in fact there were actually only eight!

I like the locks at the Delph. They are not difficult to operate and their large overspill weirs, that flow and then stop as you go up or down the flight, provide a great accompaniment to sounds of winding the paddle gear.

Heron at Delph Locks

As we went up the locks a heron perched on a wall close to one of the lock chambers. It was not bothered by our presence and only moved to try a little fishing in the nearby side pond. Maggie took some good photos of it as we passed by.

We finally moored up at Merry Hill above the shopping centre just as the sun, which had finally made an appearance, set for the day. We chose a spot near some hotel boats and Maggie took the opportunity to go the M&S. They provide dinner and some clothing.

Unusual view from a mooring - Merry Hill Shopping Centre